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Government must close ‘crown jewel’ sports events rights loophole, says new report

A LOOPHOLE in new legislation which could allow unregulated streaming services such as Amazon Prime, Apple TV and DAZN to buy live rights to “crown jewel” sports events must be closed by the government, a new report has said.

The draft Media Bill is designed to ensure the sale of live rights for “listed events” such as the Olympic Games, men’s and women’s football World Cups and the Wimbledon tennis tournament is limited solely to public service broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

However, a new report from the Culture Media and Sport committee highlights that a loophole still exists allowing streaming services that are not regulated by Ofcom to secure such rights and put them behind a paywall.

The committee has urged the government to close the loophole. The BBC told the committee it remains concerned that the government’s plan to incorporate streaming services into electronic programming guides (EPGs) would not fully address the issue.

“We welcome the draft Bill limiting the listed events regime to public service broadcasters. These events are important sporting occasions with immense cultural and social impact and the regime is critical to the UK’s sporting and media landscape,” the report stated.

“However, it is unfortunate that the government has not taken the opportunity to use the legislation to close the loophole that allows an unregulated streaming service to buy the rights for a listed event and put them behind a paywall. We recommend that the government amend the Media Bill to close the loophole.”

The committee said the legislation must ultimately cover on-demand and digital rights too.

At present, a situation could arise whereby a major event — such as an Olympic 100 metres athletics final — could be screened live on the BBC in the middle of the night but be unavailable free to air on demand thereafter.

The government is conducting a consultation on this issue, with its conclusions yet to be announced.

In its recommendations, the committee’s report states: “Digital rights should be included as part of the listed events regime to reflect sweeping changes in how audiences consume content since the original legislation was passed.

“We recommend that the government includes provisions in the Bill to enable digital rights to be included in the Listed Events regime without the need for further primary legislation.”

Commercial broadcasters have argued that the new legislation limiting the sale of live rights to listed events solely to public service broadcasters would prevent them from showing listed events, even if they were to do so for free at the point of use.


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